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Posted: September 20, 2012

Into the breach

Virtual Tape can boost security, help prevent data loss

Chris Bremer

Many of us have received those unsettling letters from our credit card company informing us of a possible breach of cardholder account data.

“…We are contacting you because we have learned of a serious data security incident that involved some of your personal information. To protect you, we have retained a specialist in identity theft protection. We’ll provide you with two years of advanced Identify Theft Protection services, free of charge…”

Wow, really? Not only is this a severe annoyance as a consumer, it’s costly for financial institutions and other businesses entrusted with our most personal data. According to the Ponemon Institute’s annual Cost of Data Breach Study (“CDBS”) released earlier this year, while the organizational cost for a data breach has actually decreased per record lost, it’s still a costly endeavor.  In fact, it’s $194 per lost or stolen record, which quickly adds up to a price tag in the millions for many companies.

While it’s impossible to eliminate security breaches all together, Virtual Tape Library (VTL) storage systems are gaining visibility as a way to mitigate risks. Organizations can fortify and streamline security policies with VTL – or disc – storage systems and take an important step towards preventing data loss:

  • Automate the data replication process- Many organizations today are concerned with delayed backups, the reliability of restores, and remote protection. A VTL solution minimizes these vulnerabilities by automating and improving backup processes and reducing the number of physical tapes being shuttled offsite. But reducing the amount of physical tape required, organizations are already less vulnerable simply because fewer tapes can fall off the truck or be misplaced enroute to an offsite data repository. The VTL system works by mimicking a physical tape environment and storing data on a disk subsystem, at least temporarily. The virtual tape systems can run multiple jobs simultaneously, and create duplicate copies to multiple physical tapes, if required, and replicate to a disaster recovery site offsite.
  • Improved encryption and backup capabilities- Regardless of whether your organization or industry is subject to federal or state regulations surrounding the protection of private customer data, a VTL solution offers considerable benefits. The VTL solution can offer encryption and encryption at rest as an option. Encryption at rest protects your data while it is stored/resting on disk. This ensures if a disk fails and needs to be replaced, no one can read the information at any point that the disk is away from the system. Encryption is important in that it allows for data to be replicated, whether on tape or via internet, and remain encrypted throughout the process. This eliminates risk if data from a VTL with encryption were to be lost or stolen via transit. The VTL has immense flexibility and can replicate encrypted data to any tape format in use.  Another advantage is that this extra layer of encryption can be done in a fraction of the time and without the risk of manual intervention or human error.

With new enhancements to virtual tape appliances, these systems have been shown highly effective for preventing data loss and mitigating risks for organizations in a mainframe environment (IBM, Unisys, etc.) as well as in a Windows/Linux based server environment. Not only will organizations benefit from automated data replication and encryption capabilities, minimizing the opportunity for data loss will pay dividends in improved customer confidence and loyalty.

Chris Bremer is chief technology officer at Dynamic Solutions International, LLC. (DSI). He has more than 25 years of experience in the storage and hardware industry and can be reached at CBremer@DynamicSolutions.com.

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